Jonathan Brough's short films have screened at Cannes, Edinburgh and America's Slamdance Film Festival. His directing CV includes episodes of Outrageous Fortune, the acclaimed The Insiders Guide to Happiness and mockumentary The Pretender, followed by a run of acclaimed Australian TV comedies (Rosehaven, The Family Law). He also edited award-winning documentary Colin McCahon: I Am.
We had a cast of stand-up comics, amateur actors and people off the street against the backdrop of New Zealand's Disneyland. It was mental. I loved it. Jonathan Brough, on the first series of The Pretender
This long-running factual series aims to celebrate "what diversity really means for all New Zealanders", by exploring the people and culture of Kiwi neighbourhoods. Four stories per episode are presented by a personality with links to the 'hood. The hosts include actors Madeleine Sami, Shimpal Lelisi and Yoson An, musicians King Kapisi and Tami Neilson, tennis player Marina Erakovic and designer Sean Kelly. Made by Satellite Media for TVNZ, six seasons had been made up to 2018. Neighbourhood was nominated for Best Information Series at the 2012 NZ Television Awards.
An all-star team of Kiwi talent contributed to this sketch comedy — including Taika Waititi, Rhys Darby, the bro'Town team, and 'special guest stars' Jemaine Clement and John Clarke. In-between one-off and ongoing sketches, there were regular appearances by Taika Waititi as an oddball alien character with plans for planet Earth. There were also animated inserts like laconic sheep tale The Pen, FOT (Funny Orange Thing) and the Kiwi accents of Beached Az. Eight episodes screened on TV3. Bro'Town creator Elizabeth Mitchell was producer and lead director.
Eclectic comedy show Radiradirah featured Taika Waititi, Rhys Darby, Madeleine Sami and the talents behind animated hit bro'Town. The fast-paced sketch show included Monty Python-style animated inserts, the laconic talking sheep of The Pen, and bro'Town-ers Oscar Kightley and Dave Fane as elderly women who've done it all. This first episode introduces a number of ongoing characters, including an oddball alien with a beard, and crusading space captain Hemi T Cook (both played by Waititi). Radiradirah was created by bro'Town's Elizabeth Mitchell and Oscar Kightley.
In the 2000s mockumentary realism (led by The Office) was making its mark in television comedy. Series The Pretender gave Kiwi politics the embedded camera treatment, with expat comedian Bob Maclaren playing overconfident property developer-turned-MP Dennis Plant. The first episode of the second series sees Plant cause political chaos, with the launch of his Future New Zealand party. This season was nominated for three Qantas TV awards in 2009, including best comedy. The show was created by Peter Cox (Insider’s Guide to Happiness) and Great Southern TV’s Philip Smith.
In this highlights special culled from the first four years of Eating Media Lunch, presenter Jeremy Wells manages to keep a straight face while mercilessly satirising all manner of mainstream media. Leaping channels and barriers of taste, the episode shows the fine line between send-up and target. The 'Worst of EML' tests the patience of talkback radio hosts and goes behind the demise of celebrity merino Shrek; plus terrorist blooper reels, Destiny Church protests, Target hijinks, and our first indigenous porno flick (you have been warned: not suitable for children).
In this satirical series Jeremy Wells channels presenter Kenneth B Cumberland (the academic who presented 1981 history series Landmarks). The makers of Eating Media Lunch plunder New Zealand's television archives, and poke fun at the past. The show promoted itself as “the most important series in the history of history”. Each episode tackles a big issue, including ‘Crime’, ‘Visitors’, ‘Trouble’ and ‘Evil’. Alongside archive footage, the odd piece of fakery and animation gets thrown in. Michael King, this defiantly ain't!
This 'alternative' version of New Zealand history was made by the team behind Eating Media Lunch. Channelling Kenneth Cumberland —presenter of heavyweight 80s series Landmarks— Jeremy Wells plumbs the TV archives to poke fun at New Zealand, and its people. Some excruciating hilarity is mined from artifacts of visitation to southern shores, from Bill Clinton to the Beatles. Muhammad Ali's fast food tastes down under are examined; the Dalai Lama finds bad karma in Christchurch; Charles and Diana visit in 1981; and mirth is mined from all things ovine.
After her husband is jailed, matriarch Cheryl West (Robyn Malcolm) decides the time has come to set her family on the straight and narrow. But can the Wests change old habits? So begins the six season saga of the Westie dynasty. Hugely popular (beloved by public, critics and awards givers alike), Outrageous Fortune was a flag-bearer for TV3 and New Zealand television drama. The series proved — in all its grow-your-own glory — that television in Aotearoa could mield comedy and drama, and be so much more than overseas stories pasted to a local setting.
In this mockumentary series, hapless property developer turned politican Dennis Plant (played by Bob Maclaren) campaigns to win a fictional Queenstown seat, then later launches party Future New Zealand. Made by Great Southern, the first season screened on TV3. A second season on TV One coincided with the 2008 election; it was thrice nominated at the 2009 Qantas NZ Film and TV Awards (Best Comedy, plus Actor and Supporting Actor, for Maclaren and Andrew King respectively). Reality met fiction when Plant's 2008 election blog appeared on the NZ Herald website.
Jeremy Wells brings Kenneth Cumberland-seque authority to this 'alternative' version of Kiwi history, which was made by many of the team that worked on Eating Media Lunch. The Unauthorised History plumbs TV and history archives to poke fun at the pretence of the past (and present). This episode examines artefacts to do with sex and Aotearoa. With tongue planted in check (and in other places) Wells revisits everything from pole-dancing in the "hellhole of the Pacific" — colonial-era Russell — to randy Hutt Valley teenagers "getting laid" in the 1950s.
Set in Antarctica (and partly shot there), the science fiction tale sees a researcher (Crawford Thomson) dealing with unsettling events — traumatic personal news, isolation, disquieting “anomalous electrical readings”, and warping time. As newsreader John Campbell says in an intercepted transmission: “the speed of light is changing. Well, what does that mean?”. The title is from Hone Tuwhare’s anti-nuclear themed poem of the same name, but the film was inspired by Pat Rushin short story Speed of Light. It was an official selection at Edinburgh Film Festival.
This documentary looks at the life and work of New Zealand's most celebrated painter, Colin McCahon. The first excerpt looks at McCahon's beginnings in Timaru and Dunedin, and his explorations of modernist techniques in paintings that reconceived 'the promised land' in an endemic landscape. The second excerpt covers McCahon's time in Muriwai in the 60s and 70s, and the influence of the environment and Māori spirituality on his work. Sam Neill reads from McCahon's letters and writings. Directed by Paul Swadel, it won best documentary at the 2005 Qantas Awards.
The Insiders Guide to Happiness follows the interconnecting lives of eight 20-something characters — one of them dead — as they search for happiness. Dramatic, comic, sexy, surreal, the drama won critical acclaim and was a ratings success. An ambitious chaos theory-derived 'meta' concept is underpinned by strong performances from the ensemble of burgeoning acting talent, and stylishly-shot Wellington city locations. The Gibson Group production won seven awards at the 2005 NZ Screen Awards, including Best Drama and Best Director (Mark Beesley)
Eating Media Lunch satirised mainstream media, from "issues of the day" journalism to reality television, to the society pages (lampooned in the "celebrity share market index index"). No fish was too big or barrel too small. Some of it was even true. Presenter Jeremy Wells kept a straight face over seven seasons, while investigating issues inexplicably missed by other media (e.g. the porno film made in Taranaki and shot in te reo, or ritalin-fueled reality programme Medswap). EML's seventh season won Best Comedy Programme at the 2008 Qantas Film and TV Awards.
Jonathan Brough’s documentary on the making of Whale Rider travels from the East Coast town of Whangara, where the mythical whale rider Paikea landed, to Hollywood. This excerpt concentrates on the movie’s vital special effects component: nine whales, brought to the screen through a combination of life-sized models and digital effects. The models were made by Auckland company Glasshammer; the largest measured 65 feet in length. The human element was also important, with actor Keisha Castle-Hughes describing the challenges of filming the whale-riding scenes.
"A social satire about an entire Antipodean generation, comfortable with what it knows best." London, 1983. It's time for a party. A group of young New Zealanders have arrived at the other end of the world to drink, play Kiwi music, search for shelter, and talk about other New Zealanders. Scripted by playwright Fiona Bartlett, this ambitious OE story plays out in one single ten minute shot (Three takes were printed). Director Jonathan Brough later directed episodes of Outrageous Fortune, The Pretender and short film No Ordinary Sun.
This short explores subtle tensions in a relationship between an artist and his model. To the young beauty who has arrived to model nude, the aging painter (played by the director Jonathan Brough’s father) initially appears decent and respectful. But when she demands to see the painting before he is ready, and he refuses, his intentions are questioned. Based on a short story by American Bernard Malamud, this understated two-hander was invited to play at Cannes, in a special 1994 season of Kiwi shorts. It was Hawera-raised Brough’s second (self-funded) short.
In this dark short film debut by director Simon Baré, newly promoted Catherine (Kirsty Hamilton) is taken to an opulent restaurant by the more worldly-wise Grant (playwright David Geary) and Sarah (Smuts-Kennedy). The evening promises a “dance with our darkest fear” — but its amoral reality utterly challenges Catherine (and makes grim Greenaway-esque irony of the title). Singer/composer Janet Roddick provides the soundtrack (Edith Piaf’s ‘Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien’) for this winner at the NZ Film Awards and Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival.
The 1994 Cannes Film Festival turned out to be a very good year for New Zealand: a little movie called Once Were Warriors began its rise to glory, and some even smaller films did big things. Frontline reporter Ross Stevens was in France to capture the action — from impressed reactions to Warriors, to the 'film is a business' talk of NZ Film Commission chair Phil Pryke. Director Grant Lahood's short film Lemming Aid comes second in the official competition, and the festival screens a special season of Kiwi shorts — only the second such event in Cannes history.